Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Your Monday Morning Mock Playlist #3

Nom Nom Nom, your happy Fauxst is still chomping down turkey, Nom Nom Nom, which is why he's a day late, Nom Nom Nom, but he's made a post-T-giving mock playlist for your faux enjoyment.  Could this be the music the Native Americans played for the pilgrims way back when?  Wikipedia says it most likely was!  Nom Nom Nom.

This day in history (erm, November 29th, that is, wokka wokka) Operation Desert Storm ended, Kid Curry Logan goes to prison for 20 years, The Flying Scotsman is the first steam locomotive to exeed 100 mph (and consequently gave rise to the steampunk movement!), and Clay Aiken has a birthay!

Now, without further adieu:

1. Os Mutantes - "Dois Mil E Um" - Mutantes
2. Radiohead - "House of Cards" - In Rainbows
3. Girls - "Darling" - Album
4. Sun City Girls - "The Space Genie Hiss" - Box of Chameleons
5. Jitney - "Love Draws Blood" - 86-300
6. The Streets - "Don't Mug Yourself" - Original Pirate Material
7. The Brian Jonestown Massacre - "Nevertheless" - Bravery Repetition, and Noise
8. Modest Mouse - "Dark Center of the Universe" - The Moon & Antarctica
9. Brother Truck - "Around the World" - The Knave
10. Animal Collective - "Brother Sport" - Merriweather Post Pavilion
11. Kanye West - "Monster" - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
12. Jonsi - "Boy Lilikoi" - Go
13. The Tallest Man on Earth - "The Blizzard's Never Seen the Desert Sand" - Shallow Grave
14. The Hold Steady - "Sketchy Metal" - Almost Killed Me
15. Bob Dyaln - "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" - Highway 61 Revisited
16. King Khan & the Shrines - "69 Faces of Love" - What Is?!
17. Kurt Vile - "Amplifier" - Childish Prodigy
18. The Knife - "Neverland" - Silent Shout
19. Son House - "Empire State Express" - The Original Delta Blues
20. Women - "Woodbine" - Women

This Mock Playlist brought to you by A Day Late and a Dollar Short.  Whatever your needs, we'll almost get to you in time, but not quite.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Green Bean Casserole Rum: A Recipe

For your thanksgiving viewing, here are some of my favorite book covers.  We're told not to judge a book by its cover, but I do anyway and these books got me.  Have a look-see for yourself and then continue eating turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes and green bean casserole and pie and filling your throat with wine wine and more wine.  I'll be back Sunday with some final thoughts on National Novel Writing Month.  Until then, feast your eyes on these:

Ted Chiang is one of science fiction's best short storytellers and when I saw this collection (published by Small Beer Press) in the bookstore, I had to have it.

My friend, Greg Bossert, brought this book to Clarion last summer.  I suppose you would call Hugo Cabret a MG novel (middle-grade) because the characters are young, but it's a fascinating experiment combining literature, film, and drawings.  The book is bound by hand, too.

This collection of short stories was written by another friend of mine and fellow Clarionite, Karin Tidbeck.  The book is in Swedish so I can't read it, but I can tell you her stories in English are at once eerie and gorgeous.

The original Rocky.  Fat City is a gritty chaotic novel about the redemption of a boxer.

As a promotion of a collection of short stories, Jeff Vandermeer wrote a "secret life" for many of his fans.  This is that book: it's brief and weird and pretty much exactly Vandermeer.  Some of these "secret lives" would become full-bodied stories.

I haven't read The Stories of Ibis yet.  It's on my reading list, obviously.  I bought this book in San Diego.  I remember looking down at a stand of books and there it was and I had to have it.  Apparently, it's about robots.

Grace Kilonavich's debut novel was on my Top 10 Favorite Books of 2010 for good reason, and this awesome cover is icing on the wacked-out psychedelic cake.

I've read the first three Culture books by Iain M. Banks.  I still can't get into it. I think Banks' stories are a fun, fast read, but I think he wants me to get more out of the reading than I do.

Dien Cai Dau might be the best poetry collection about the Vietnam War ever.  There's a secret story I have about this book, but I won't tell it.  It's my secret story.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Your Monday Morning Mock Playlist, #2

Here he is again, your Fauxstest with the Mostest.  I trust you are all sufficiently bleary-eyed and hungover from the weekend and ready for eight hours of constant Facebook page refreshing!  Don't worry.  I won't tell your boss (wink, wink).  Let me just go ahead and refresh my Facebook page...right...now...THERE!  Whew!

This day in history Lebanon gained independence from France, JFK was assassinated, Toy Story was released, and Max Headroom hijacked two Chicagao TV stations.

Are you ready for the second Mock Playlist?  I hope so because I have twenty songs for your faux-listening pleasure!  Everybody say Yay!  No.  Wait.  Everybody say: WAAHOOOEEEIIIIOOOOAAAAHOOOEEEE!

1. Wilco - "Handshake Drugs" - A Ghost is Born
2. The Rolling Stones - "Ventilator Blues" - Exile on Main St.
3. Arcade Fire - "Neon Bible" - Neon Bible
4. Silver Jews - "Punks in the Beerlight" - Tanglewood Numbers
5. A Place to Bury Strangers - "Missing You" - A Place to Bury Strangers
6. James Blake - "Postpone" - CMYK
7. Jens Lekman - "You are the Light (By Which I Travel into This and That)" - When I Said I Wanted to be Your Dog
8. Local Natives - "Airplane" - Gorilla Manor
9. The Beatles - "Good Morning, Good Morning" - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Clube Band
10. Sun City Girls - "Space Prophet Dogon" - Torch of the Mystics
11. Tim Cohen - "Haunted Hymns" - The Two Sides of Tim Cohen
12. Van Morrison - "Madame George" - Astral Weeks
13. Nick Drake - "One of These Things First" - Bryter Layter
14. The National - "Abel" - Alligator
15. Panda Bear - "Slow Motion" - Tomboy 7 Inch
16. Fleet Foxes - "Blue Ridge Mountains" - Fleet Foxes
17. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - "Underwater (You & Me)" - Some Loud Thunder
18. Bob Dylan - "Sign on a Window" - New Morning
19. Boe Weaver - "Mysterious Island" - Boe Weaver
20. No Age - "Teen Creeps" - Nouns

This Mock Playlist brought to you by People Who Love You No Matter What.  When you need a hug, we hug you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Week 3: Writing Out Loud

Week 3 of NaNoWriMo almost killed me.  I've hit the middle of the story, which for me, has always been the hardest part.  The middle, and I suspect a lot of writers feel the same way, is the place where I get stuck.  There's a simple explanation for it: the middle of a novel, when you're writing it, is like that place in a relationship where you get used to each other, where you don't have to tell your partner you miss them every time they're away, the part where you don't always go to bed at the same time: you know, the part where the excitement and that shiny new smell have worn off a little bit.  The enthusiasm of the beginning is over, you've built up these characters...and now what?  How do you keep what you're writing interesting not only to your potential readers, but most importantly, to yourself?

I don't really have an answer to that question, except to continue to be spontaneous.  During Week 3 of NaNoWriMo (http://www.nanowrimo.org/), I tried to keep the writing fresh by letting the characters speak for themselves.  That is to say, all those plots and tangles I was creating in Weeks 1 and 2, I let go of.  I didn't want the story to become static and I certainly didn't want it to become predictable.  So, I let the characters start writing out loud.  This experiment allowed me to add another viewpoint - one I didn't think would be important in the first half of the book but, as it turns out, is very important to the middle and will continue to be important in the last part.  If I'd stayed on the course I set in the first weeks, this character, Tok Willow, would not have had his time to speak and I'm very grateful he did: his voice is one of the more interesting ones in the novel.

Having the characters essentially writing their own parts has also allowed me to better understand what it is I'm writing about.  As it happens, there's a lot going on in this story: the doom of mathematics, the multiverse, faster than light travel, and a couple of lowlife criminals getting involved in things far too complex to be getting into; but at the heart of this story, I hope, are these characters' everyday lives, their flaws and perfections brought to light by strange circumstances.

The word count is down this week again, though I'm still ahead of the curve and expect to reach the 50,000 goal just before Thanksgiving.  But the word count is down for a good reason: the characters are talking to me and to each other and taking each other out to dinner and buying each other flowers...and I'm not really sure how far I'm willing to take this metaphor...

Though, as I said, I'll more than likely hit the word count goal, I don't expect the novel to be finished by November 30th.  I'm not entirely sure how long the novel will end up being, but I definitely feel as though I'm in the middle of the middle and the end is still a long way away.  This next week will show me if I can keep the threads (however spontaneous they may have been at the time) in the first weeks and the true spontaneity of character back-and-forth this week from falling apart.

NEXT WEEK: Analogical Accountability and the Necessity of Banging One's Head Against a Wall

Words to Date - 39,702

(SIDENOTE: The artwork for this post was done by Mandy Monk.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Total Oblivion, More or Less by Alan DeNiro - A Review

In Alan DeNiro's debut novel, Total Oblivion, More or Less, the world we know - Facebook statuses, text messages, 24-hour cable news, interstate travel, trustworthy friends - is gone.  In its place is a Midwest invaded by Scythian armies and wasp-fueled plagues that may not always kill you, but will definitely change you.  Welcome to this new world Macy Palmer, a sixteen year old girl who is traveling on a boat with her older sister, her wild brother, her sick mother, and her falling-apart-at-the-seams father and the not-quite-family dog, Xerxes.

Interspersed between the first person POV of Macy are interludes that delve into Macy's family's thoughts and actions.  For instance, Grace, Macy's mother, fears the worst after she is infected with the plague.  We learn that Sophia, the older sister, was attending college to be a midwife before the Scythians invaded.  Ciaran's fate is revealed through transcripts.

But this is hands-down Macy's story.  Total Oblivion is classic bildungsgroman.  Through various adventures downriver - including a wooden submarine, an albino, a talking dog, wargiraffes, and a constantly shifting landscape - Macy discovers her strengths and weaknesses and a reaffirmation of her love for her family.

Macy dreams big and so does Alan DeNiro: sometimes the prose is purely absurd and out of control.  The first two hundred pages read smoothly, if at times, as aforementioned, a bit absurdly wild, but the last third of the book feels incredibly rushed.  This is because the first two hundred pages are more travelogue than story and the last third suddenly turns into a story.  Rather than take his time to flesh out the ending, DeNiro throws it at the reader.  What's worse is that it's pretty predictable.

Total Oblivion tries to find its heart and, though Macy is an intriguing sympathetic character, the story falls short.

Final Verdict: Enjoyable enough that I didn't want to mash frogs with a hammer.

--Dustin J Monk

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Guest Blog: John Dwyer - Bradley Completes Signings of Entire 2011 Class

While I am in the throes of NaNoWriMo, here's some Bradley basketball recruiting fun, brought to you by our friends at http://basketballbeertheworld.blogspot.com/.

Bradley had four verbal commitments for the 2011-2012 class and all four have submitted their signed National Letters of Intent.  Here are a few details of each below (listed in order of verbal commitment):

Sean Harris - SF - 6'7 - It seems like ages ago that Sean verbally committed to join Bradley after completing his freshman season at JUCO Yuba College (the path to Bradley taken by Zach Andrews and Lawrence Wright).  As it happens Sean is a Mormon and still had to complete his missionary work.  Due to timing and other factors that means that Sean will arrive on the hilltop with three years of eligibility left.  He's considered to be most like Taylor Brown, with decent perimeter skills, good rebounding, and a high motor. 

Donivine Stewart - PG - 5'10 - A popular local talent from Limestone HS of Peoria decided to stay at home over offers from power conference members DePaul and West Virginia.  He was a prolific scorer throughout his high school career, and from what I've heard the only D1 talent on his team.  I've never seen him play, but by reputation D-World (as he's known) is a lead guard who makes up for physical deficiencies with excellent skills and basketball IQ.  Been hearing about him for years, and always happy when local talent stays home.

Remy Abell - SG - 6'4 - A very exciting 3-star recruit out of Kentucky.  He's recognized as a versatile wing good at most aspects of the game-- athleticism, shooting, ballhandling, defense, and may even be able to contribute some at the point.  He's a top 5 player for this class out of Kentucky and a candidate for Mr. Basketball.  Good stuff.

Nate Wells - C - 7'1 -  A late-blooming giant who apparently may grow another inch or two, Nate Wells  was recruited as a project.  His signing confirmed also that he'd redshirt for the 2011-2012 season.  A lot of fans seem to not much like another project in the paint, but to be realistic, I just don't think there's that many giant centers ready to contribute as freshmen.  As a player, Wells plays on a terrible 4A team in Iowa, but led his league in blocks.  He didn't block or rebound much.  Reports seem to indicate he's not a bad athlete but still learning to play basketball.  He may have a long road, but Bradley's set him out with a lot of time to get ready.

2011-2012 Bradley Roster Breakdown:

Point/Combo Guards - Dyricus Simms-Edwards (Jr, 6'3), Walt Lemon, Jr (So, 6'3) Donivine Stewart (Fr, 5'10)

Wing/Shooting Guards - Jake Eastman (Jr, 6'5), Remy Abell (Fr, 6'4)

Forwards - Taylor Brown (Jr/Sr, 6'6), Milos Knezevic (Jr, 6'8), Jordan Prosser (So, 6'9), Sean Harris (So, 6'7)

Centers - Will Egolf (Sr, 6'9), Anthony Thompson (Sr, 6'10), Andrew Davis (So, 6'10), Nate Wells (R/S, 7'1)

It's an interesting roster, to be sure with five guards and eight "bigs."  It's definitely on the big side, which leaves me t wonder if all of our forwards or centers will be with the team next season.  That or Les really wants to start playing big.  It's much too early to say or speculate and we'll find out in due time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Your Monday Morning Mock Playlist

Good morning, Workers of the World!  Welcome to the first installment of Your Monday Morning Mock Playlist, wherein I, your faux-host (heretofore known as The Fauxst), will post a mock playlist that you can faux-listen to to get you through that Mind-Bendingly Boring First Day of the Work Week.

This day in history Zebulon Pike sighted Pike's Peak, the Draft of the Articles of Confederation was approved by Congress, Gemini 12 splashed softly in the Atlantic Ocean, and Sam Waterston has a birthday.

So, without further adieu, put your ears to the ground or in the clouds or wherever your ears are most comfortable because it's now time for The Fauxst's first Mock Playlist!

1. Girls - "Big Bad Mean Motherfucker" - Album
2. Andrew Graham & Swarming Branch - "I Stole the Lime" - Andrew Graham & Swarming Branch
3. Animal Collective - "Graze" - Fall Be Kind
4. Modest Mouse - "King Rat" - No One's First and You're Next
5. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
6. Os Mutantes - "Caminhante Noturno" - Mutantes
7. Real Estate - "Green River" - Real Estate
8. Atlas Sound - "Shelia" - Logos
9. Brian Jonestown Massacre - "Going to Hell" - Strung Out in Heaven
10. The Clash - "Spanish Bombs" - London Calling
11. Flying Lotus - "German Haircut" - Cosmogramma
12. The Walkmen - "Angela Surf City" - Lisbon
13. Jay Reatard - "Nothing Now" - Watch Me Fall
14. Kurt Vile - "Overnite Religion" - Childish Prodigy
15. John Lennon - "Well Well Well" - Plastin Ono Band
16. The Amazing - "The Kirwan Song" - The Amazing
17. Women - "Black Rice" - Women
18. The Morning Benders - "All Day Day Light" - Big Echo
19. Muslimgauze - "Jackal the Invizibl" - Sufiq
20. Jamie Lidell - "Green Light" - Jim

This Mock Playlist brought to you by Wood Paneling, Inc.  For your paneling needs: You know you should, you know you could, you might as well Wood.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Week 2: Recalibrating

I am a linear writer by - I was going to say "nature," but I think it's more "habit."  That is, I like to write from Chapter One to Chapter Twenty in order.  However, during the second week of NaNoWriMo (http://www.nanowrimo.org/), I wanted to try something different.  The NaNoWriMo idea is an experiment, in my opinion, of how much you can write in a month, and, signing up for this project, I knew I also wanted to experiment in the ways I write, partly to see if how I write is what's working best and partly to see how interesting my story could get.

There are four parts and an epilogue to my novel.  During the first week, I wrote halfway between the first part, Levee Camp Moan, and, though I finished Part One during the second, I found the words did not come as easy for me as those first 12,000 in Week One.  Part of this was because I began writing scenes out of order, in Parts Two and Three and Four and a section of the Epilogue.  I call this type of writing "scatterbrain," because that's exactly what it feels like to me.

It was interesting to see where my characters have ended up and I'm excited to see just how I get there with them, but finding the words this week was much harder for me and I wonder if I haven't inadvertently created several problems in the text.  These may be easy fixes as I write more and more sections and get closer to the end of the story or they may not be fixable until revision.  The enthusiasm for the novel hasn't died down even a little, for which I'm glad because I really didn't know what would happen if I left the very safe confines of linear writing.

That said, I think writing in a linear fashion is what, for the most part, works best for me.  There are times, however, when scatterbrain writing is useful because, in a sort of roundabout way, it requires thinking ahead.  I think, for instance, if I'd had a particular scene in my head and knew it came later in the story, it would be good to write it out, get it down, even if it's just notes on what happens.  I've also found scatterbraining to be a highly effective tool for my imagination, putting characters in wildly different situations from the point they are in the linear story. 

Part of the experience of NaNoWriMo, of course, is not knowing what happens, not planning this story out, seeing where it goes on its own, and that, I think is a somewhat linear process of writing, letting these characters end up where they will in a faux-natural fashion*, without any forethought on my part.

NEXT WEEK: Novel Notes on Napkins (and the annoyance of alliteration)

Words to Date: 27,139

*I say faux-natural because when writing a novel not under the pressure of 50,000 words in 30 days, I hope to flesh out more of the storyline and the characters, to be able to scatterbrain write freely, knowing full well most of what's going to happen, but to make it all seem as though it's happening naturally.  There's nothing really "natural" writing for NaNoWriMo, but it is a lot of fun.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Today I Saw Gandalf the Grey in the Tiles on My Kitchen Floor

This morning I was cooking eggs and smoked sausages when, as I was about to crack the fourth egg over the pan, I looked down at the kitchen floor (for no particular reason except that I sometimes look down to make certain my feet are still in this dimension) and saw, staring back at me, smoking a pipe and wearing his silly hat, Gandalf the Grey (or rather Ian McKellen's version of Gandalf the Grey).  In the tiles on my kitchen floor.  There he was, from the shoulders up anyway, mid-wink.

I told it to quote fly, you fool unquote.  Gandalf the Grey Tile did not deign to answer.  I cracked the fourth egg and let the yoke sizzle in the pan, doing my best to ignore the wizardly face winking from my kitchen floor.

Of course, I could not stop thinking about the image at my feet.  I said to myself: Dustin, perhaps you should take this moment (putting egg to plate with spatula) to reaffirm your faith in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Not the books, of course: no need to reaffirm anything there.  I was thinking the movies.  I looked to Gandalf the Grey and his half-wink, his firesmoke beard.  He told me it would be a good idea ("So long as you don't share it with anyone, of course!" and I have no plans to), and I told the fierce wizard I would reaffirm just after my hearty breakfast.

Breakfast scarfed, I sat in my favorite chair (the thinking one, torn-up leather with wheels) and stared off into space as many of my friends so often find me, not really lost in thought, more lost in wall.  While I was away, leaning back in my chair, unprepared for any amount of roll away, I discovered this about my faith in The Lord of the Rings movies: I still love the whole shindig.  The special effects, of course, are amazing.  The adapted screenplay can't be trifled with (even if I were a Tom Bombadil lover and pissed about his lack of appearance in the film, which I'm not, I'm not).  Overall, the movies are a rollicking good time.

There are a few problems that I've found during my reaffirmation. The Return of the King really wants to milk it, really wants to jerk your tears, if you get my drift, what with the four-eight overly sentimental climaxes over the last thirty minutes of film.  Don't worry: I'm not talking trash about one of the great books/movies of our time, not exactly.  Tears welled in my eyes, too, when Frodo wakes up after having destroyed the ring and Sam (in slo-mo) comes into the room and sees his friend well.  Hell, I pretty much wept when Frodo got on the boat (why, Frodo, why, did you have to leave???).  But there are moments of seriously atrocious acting.  I'm not talking about Elijah Wood, though he's pretty awful most of the time.  I'm talking about Orlando Bloom.  He's supposed to be this kickass elf dude and, really, he makes every single line of dialogue into something cheesy and lame.  It hurts me to watch him in the movies.  Yes, he's pretty.  But that's no excuse.

Okay, enough humbuggery.  These are great movies, greater books (even though, as a teenager, I was sometimes thrown by Tolkien's dried-leaf prose, but that's neither here nor there).  As for Gandalf the Grey Tile, when I went back to the kitchen to put my plate in the sink, I looked for him again.  He was gone.

SIDENOTE: The sign above is a misquote.  Sheesh.

Friday, November 5, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Week 1: Thoughts

As many of you know, I, along with many of compatriots in the writingsphere, have taken on the NaNoWriMo project (http://www.nanowrimo.org/): writing 50,000 words during the month of November.  I've decided to document, in some fashion, this process, by blogging about at the end of each week.

This is quite an undertaking as anyone who is doing it will tell you.  Fifty thousand words in 30 days is a minimum of 1,667 words per day, without breaks; that's about half of a short story every day (15 short stories in 30 days then, yarz?), when a lot of writers take a month or more for one (1) short story!  Of course, there are naysayers to NaNoWriMo.  They'll tell you all you're going to write is crap for 30 days.  The thing of it is, they're at least half-right, but I can tell you from experience most of what I write is pure crap anyway.  Even so, any writer worth his or her nickel knows there is always always something worth keeping in the mudpile: an idea, however small; a turn of phrase; a line of dialogue; something

I chose to participate in NaNoWriMo for a number of reasons, but mostly because it would require me to write every day, regardless of my mood, my schedule, the mad ravings and finger-pointings at the short story I'm currently working on ("Why don't you have an ending!" "How dare you eat that pizza, Johnny Gorgeous!" "Mr. Frenchman, must you be so Phantom of the Opera-y?").

So, this is the end of the first week then or thereabouts.  It's Day 5 and I have 12,201 words written in a crazy, whacked-out novel.  Here's the premise that I full right to change at any time, without notice: Fish that can travel faster than the speed of light.  A bounty hunter obsessed with her lost lives, past and future.  A baritone in an a cappella group slash smuggler who just might be the guy to wreck the whole space travel thing.  A philosopher decrying the doom of mathematics.  And a drug dealer forms an uneasy partnership with a dancer to pull off the biggest heist in human history: matter theft.  Welcome to Poro, city of claw and eye.

I have no clue how I'm going to pull any of that off, even with 12,000 words written, but I'm getting closer to understanding how it all works in my mind.  Also, I'm not sure I want to pull it off.  The interesting part of doing this, for me at least, is writing it out, the act alone, letting my brain go, whatever comes out is what's written down.  Already, I've introduced a character I didn't think would matter and, as it turns out, matters very much.  It's a wonderful moment when the story takes control.  It's not something that happens much when I'm writing short stories.

Okay, though, the story in control of itself is only going to work for so long, I know that.  The other really fun part of this is that I'll have a novel at the end, one in which I can go back and reassert my control.  I'll revise, finding the parts that are worth keeping and disregarding the parts that aren't, working out what's cliche and what's original, however many revisions that takes.  For now, the story is on auto-pilot and it can take any turn it wants, even ones I don't agree with (at any rate, maybe the turns I don't agree with are the ones I should be keeping).

No matter what happens, at the end of first week, I can say without hesitation that this is a blast and I highly recommend everyone try it once.  It's really not even about getting those 50,000 words.  I don't think you win anything except a NaNoWriMo ribbon on your profile and the prestige of having completed 50,000 words.  If you don't make it, it's no big deal.  So long as you don't not make it because you're obsessing over the little details - you can do that in revision.  That's not what NaNoWriMo is about.  It's about writing every day and having fun doing it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Top 10 Books I Read in 2010

How ya doin', kiddos?  In your "I-just-voted-now-what" revelry, I've gone ahead and made a list of the best books I've read in 2010.  Now, that isn't to say that all of these books were published in 2010, though some of the were, but these books are the ones that resonated with me the most.  A few I've read before because I reread them every year.  They're that good.  As with my Top 10 Records, there's no numbering system.  I absolutely refuse to put a number on things I like!

I wanted to give a fairly equal share of the love between non-genre and genre, fiction and nonfiction, because I read all of these; however this year I was accepted to Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers' Workshop in San Diego and I decided it was worth it to read a lot of genre work in preparation for the six-week workshop (and yes, two of the instructors are mentioned below, not because I'm trying to kiss their asses, but because their books are seriously two of the best books I've read this year; and okay, a little ass-kissing can't hurt).  The genre trend, even after the workshop, has kept up and, unfortunately, this year I've read very few nonfiction works.  I intend to change that at the beginning of the new year.

Okay.  Away we go.

Top 10 Books I Read in 2010 (not a David Letterman sketch)

The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich (Two Dollar Radio, 2010)
Hobo teen vampire junkie wandering the Pacific Northwest, high on meth and robitussin, and haunted by the disappearance of her sister while being chased by a serial killer.  And that's what the back of the book says.  What is this book really about?  To tell you that, I'd have to read it again and maybe a third time after that.  And I will read it again.  The first time through, however, is a stream-of-consciousness experience and the language is so vibrant, Krilanovich's sentences come to life.

The Hot Kid  by Elmore Leonard (William Morrow, Phoenix, HarperTorch, 2005)
Breezy crime noir doesn't get much better than Elmore Leonard.  This one takes place in Depression-era Oklahoma and it concerns oil and badass US Marshal, Carl Webster.  This is the kind of book you read in two days, but it's a fun and gloriously thrilling two days.

City of Saints & Madmen by Jeff Vandermeer (Tor, 2004)
Jeff happened to be one of my instructors at Clarion and I thought it was a good idea to get acquainted with my instructors through their work.  I was not let down here.  The book is four novella-length stories and then 400 pages of appendices, based on the fictional city of Ambergris.  There are more details about this city in this book than in a lot of history books about Rome - it's a good thing: Ambergris is one of the most fascinating places I've ever visited.  You've got the Festival of the King Squid, a fictional but realistic religion called Truffidianism, strange mushroom people who dwell beneath the city called gray caps, and so much more.

Nova by Samuel R. Delany (Doubleday, 1968)
Chip, as he's known in the field, was also an instructor of mine at Clarion.  I'd grown up with his divisive behemoth, Dhalgren, in my house as a kid.  I still see that deep orange sun on the cover, that first half-sentence, "to wound the autumnal city."  Say what you will about it, but I loved it.  It was, according to my father and I trust him, a testament to the fucked-upness of the sixties.  Nova is nothing like that.  Its plot is pretty typical space opera, but with Delany's singular disillusionment of  our dependence on resources and depth of character and detail.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade Books, 2009)
Bangkok, the near-future, a calorie-fueled soceity, genetic manipulation, dirigibles.  This is pretty much everything I could want in reading a novel.  We're talking violence, heartbreak, sex, love, cruelty, ignorance, empowerment.  Bacigalupi is the writer to watch, in my opinion.  Not only is this book full of ideas and warnings for our own future, but it's extremely well-written too.  Bacigalupi is creating a new kind of cyberpunk and I'm in, definitely in.

Nobody Move by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2009)
This is Denis Johnson writing an Elmore Leonard novel! The only thing that could be better than this is if Quention Tarantino made a scifi movie.  Nobody Move was  an easy, swift read and excellent crime noir, definitely Johnson at his lightest.  After a heavy-hitter about the Vietnam War and intelligence or lack thereof in Tree of Smoke, I'd want to do something light too.  The rundown: dude gets caught up in some shit he shouldn't have, things get out of control, everybody wants a cut of the dough, and there's a pretty girl.  Awesome.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2002)
This is a book I read once every couple of years.  I love the hermaphrodite narrator, Cal/Calliope.  How s/he is able to back in time and be her grandmother and her father, witnessing the exodus from Asian Minor to Prohibition Era in the US, all of it a love story about Detroit, the ruined city.  It's heartbreaking.

Cathedral by Raymond Carver (Harvill Press, 1983)
This isn't a novel.  It's a book of short stories.  Carver writes about the regular guy purely, without any sentimentality and this is his finest collection.  I read this every year.  No other story like the first story, "Feathers," with its crazy peacock has influenced me more as a writer.  The final story, "Cathedral," is also worth the collection alone.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (DAW Books, 2010)
I reviewed a few weeks ago.  Okorafor's future world is a bleak desert with broken-down computers and strange sorceries.  But it's about so much more: genocide, feminism, technology, etc.  And written with such lovely style and grace.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu (Pantheon, 2010)
I reviewed this book, too, way way way back in September.  If I had to choose (and I'm not, I tells ya, I'm not!) the number one book I read in 2010, it would be Yu's masterful, How to Live... Normally, I hate time travel stories because they're usually done very poorly with gaping holes and fundamental flaws.  If Yu's novel has any of those, I've yet to see them.  He has written the perfect time travel story; and, not only that, he's written a moving piece about a son searching for his father.  Kudos, sir, kudos.  You've won me over twice.

So there they are in all their glory.  I have about 25 books on my bookshelf that I still need to read this year.  I'm currently in the middle of Ian McDonald's Brasyl and it's swimmingly good (all about the multiverse and quantum computers and the country of Brazil, wild!).  Some more books on my list:

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jeminison
Oblivion, More or Less by Alan De Niro
The City & the City by China Mieville
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Anything else I should put on this list?  What are you reading?